Quick work by police with an assist from an officer's trained bloodhound Sunday led to the rescue of a city woman who had been brutally attacked and chained up in a basement of a Monroe Avenue home.
Suspect Michael Ciskiewic, 25, was caught and charged on Monday night.
The attention of local law enforcement was first drawn to the area for what was believed to be an assault in the 3000 block of Monroe Avenue at about 1 a.m. on Sunday. Officers were given a report of a man assaulting a woman. Niagara Falls Police Superintendent Thomas Licata said the incident was witnessed by a neighbor, who verbally confronted the suspect.
The neighbor reported that the suspect threatened him, so he walked back into his house and dialed 911, Licata said. By the time police arrived, the victim and suspect were gone.
Left behind was a splash of blood in an alley. Floodlights were set up and investigators swabbed samples as evidence, the superintendent said. The scene attracted the attention of residents and word got back to the victim's family that the activity was taking place near their relative's home.
The victim's family members visited her residence and found her gone without her phone and other items, Licata said. They sensed something was wrong and called police.
Local authorities subsequently reassembled at the crime scene, discovering periodic blood spatters stretching from the small splash that was first noticed to another nearby alleyway, where the trail appeared to end.
Police presumed the victim and suspect could have been picked up or otherwise left in a vehicle, Licata said, but decided to call in the assistance of a bloodhound belonging to a member of the animal control unit and crisis negotiations team.
Officer Donny Booth and his 2-year-old hound, Flash, had lent their skills to smaller-stakes investigations in the past and jumped at the opportunity to assist in the matter, Booth said Monday. The dog is not an official member of the force, but is certified through the American Mantrailing, Police and Work Dog Association, Booth said.
At the scene, Flash and Booth went through their normal prep. The hound cleared his nose on a quick walkabout. Booth attached Flash's harness to the dog's torso, directed the hound's attention to the residual blood and gave the command, "Ready, go."
"We were following little tiny pin-pricks of blood," Booth said of the zig-zagging quarter-mile path Flash sensed.
But where the trail visually ran out for the cops it continued on for the hound. Booth said the dog is sensitive to the scent of deposited skin cells invisible to the human eye. The dog's nose led him about 100 feet from the last visible spot of blood. Flash pointed investigators to the latched fence of the house in which the victim was located.
"I’m glad it were able to save the girl when we did," Booth said. "Who knows what could have happened."
Members of the Falls' Emergency Response Team assisted investigators with entering the home where the woman was found chained in the basement. She was freed from her chains and transported to Erie County Medical Center for treatment.
She was released from ECMC late Monday afternoon and is staying with a relative.
Licata said he was impressed with the hound's work.
"If (Flash) doesn’t do another good piece of police work in his life, he still did something great here," he said.